CHRISTINA DEHAN JALOWAY
Engagement is a wonderful, stressful, romantic, scary, and beautiful time in a couple’s life. Having just lived through a whirlwind courtship and as-short-as-the-church-allows engagement, I have been asked by a few readers to share my tips for a fruitful engagement when time is not exactly on your side.
Before I get to the list, I will say that Kristian and I are both thankful that we were only engaged for six months. True, it made wedding planning a little (lot) more stressful at times, and there were moments where I wondered if we were rushing things. But when I had my wits about me, it was clear that a short engagement was the way to go for us, and not just because Kristian was 40 and I was 32 when we started dating. For example, Kristian and I both appreciated that the short wedding-planning time frame made it difficult (for me) to overthink all of the details and get too stressed out by the process. And honestly, once Kristian and I were sure we were called to marriage, we were ready to get married.
That said, I do think that the way Kristian and I went about wedding planning and preparing for marriage made our short engagement a more fruitful, less rushed experience than it could have otherwise been. Below, you'll find a few tips that I think would work for most couples. (If you're on the opposite end of the spectrum, like our Social Media Coordinator Elise, check out her tips for thriving in a long engagement here.)
1. Go to a few sessions with a Catholic licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT).
That may sound extreme, but I think that it was the most valuable thing we did during our engagement. This is not to say that your parish priest or deacon isn’t a good resource, but chances are they don’t have the time or the training to help you and your fiance dig into the nitty-gritty of your relationship and the potential areas of conflict that may crop up in your marriage. For me personally, couples therapy helped dispel many of my fears and gave me much more peace in the final weeks approaching our wedding.
2. Do a nightly relationship examen.
Each night, Kristian and I would spend a few minutes (usually walking around one of our neighborhoods) examining our relationship that day. We kept it simple so that it wouldn’t become burdensome, and it went something like this:
What was the most satisfying thing about our relationship today?
What was the least satisfying thing about our relationship today?
What can I do to make your life better/easier tomorrow?
The examen gave us the opportunity to remember the enjoyable parts of the day and to air any grievances before they had a chance to fester into resentment. It wasn’t always pleasant to do, but answering these questions each day prompted important conversations and deeper intimacy, which is why Kristian and I continue the practice each night now that we're married.
3. Go on a DIY pre-marriage retreat
If you’re like me, typical Pre-Cana retreat, as helpful as it may be, will leave you wanting more. Don’t get me wrong: group marriage retreats have their place, and Kristian and I enjoyed getting to meet other couples who were getting married around the same time as us, but I wanted something that went deeper and was more personal. Unfortunately, due to our short engagement, we didn’t have time to go to a monastery for a couple of days (which was my ideal). So, we compromised and planned a mini-retreat for the week before our wedding. We kept it simple and just spent a morning in a nearby adoration chapel, meditating on the vows we would be making in just a few days. We took each set of vows, spent about 20 minutes praying and journaling about them, and then went outside on a bench and shared our reflections with each other. It was such a peaceful and enriching experience for both of us, and it made our wedding Mass even more meaningful.
4. Keep the bridal showers to a minimum.
When you only have a few months to plan a wedding and prepare for a lifelong commitment to the man you love, having six bridal showers is not going to make things any easier. My recommendation is--if at all possible--to say yes to one shower hosted by a friend and one hosted by extended family. All you have to do is kindly decline the extra offers, and make sure that the would-be hostesses get invited to one of the main showers.
Regardless of how long or short your engagement is, the most important thing to remember is that it is a time of preparation for marriage to the one you love. I know that sounds obvious, but short engagements can get so clogged with wedding planning, parties, showers, and other distractions that it’s easy to forget the Sacrament. I hope the tips above help you and your fiance navigate this time peacefully and joyfully.
Now we’d like to hear from you: did you have a short engagement? Any tips you want to share with other brides-to-be? Please do so in the comments!